EuroView: Motum into semi's, Broekhoff's return bungled
With the European basketball season at the business end, the past week was full of action on the court as well as off the court, and unfortunately not everything went well for the Aussies.
Brock Motum, who managed to receive a chance to sit and rest before the playoffs, experienced the most intense schedule last week. Anadolu Efes Istanbul faced Darussafaka Istanbul in their quarterfinal series on Tuesday and Thursday. Yet two really difficult games in three days wasn’t a problem for Motum and his teammates, with the Turkish Cup winners beating the 2018 EuroCup Champions 78-69 and 79-78, making their way safely through to the semifinals.
The Boomers forward played 36 minutes in the first game in which he finished with 8 points (3-7 FG), 5 rebounds and 2 assists. In the series clincher, the 28 year-old scored 7 points (3/8 (FG), grabbed 2 rebounds and made 2 assists in 27 minutes of action.
There was no time for celebration for Anadolu Efes' roster, as they had to quickly prepare for their semifinal showdown against season surprise 2nd seeded Tofas Bursa on Sunday. The first game of the series was a blowout, with Ergin Ataman’s squad crushed by 29 points (63-91) to have Anadolu Efes on the back foot. Motum had a game he would rather forget, going scoreless in 19 minutes.
Meanwhile in Israel more things happened off the court than on it. The Winner League’s front-office decided to cancel the rule which requires at least two Israeli players must be on court for either team at all times. As a result, the local players fought back and went on strike! In sensational fashion, at one stage it looks like the remainder of the season -- including the playoffs -- would be suspended. Fortunately the league directors quickly rescinded their decision, allowing the competition to resume.
For Jonah Bolden and Maccabi Tel Aviv, the scandal ended perfectly, defeating Herzliya 97-85, and as Hapoel Unet Holon couldn’t do the same, finished the regular season on top of the standings. Bolden helped to reach this achievement by posting 11 points (2/3 3PT), 5 rebounds and 14 efficiency points in 21 minutes. Maccabi will next play against Ironi Ziona in a best-of-three quarterfinal series.
The VTB United League season ended painfully for Ryan Broekhoff and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. The team's leading scorer was cleared to resume playing after recovering from his broken hand, yet despite being ready to go, he wouldn’t be able to do it because of his club’s unforgivable mistake: they just forgot to register their star Australian as an active player before the playoffs deadline! Playing without the 27 year-old sharpshooter, Lokomotiv struggled against EuroLeague side Khimki Moscow. They were swamped 66-79, 72-77 and 73-86 to be swept out of the playoffs without a single win.
After a positive regular season, 2nd seeded Lietuvos rytas Vilnius is trying to reach the final after two years of absence, but will have to do it the hard way after taking a hit in the first leg of their semifinal series. Ben Madgen and his teammates suffered a 79-84 home loss against 3rd seeded Neptunas Klaipeda. The veteran guard played 22 minutes, but scored just 5 points with just three shot attempts in a relatively quiet outing by his standards. Neptunas is leading best-of-five series 1-0 as the next game will be played on their home-court.
A dramatic conclusion to the season awaits Slovenian basketball fans as Olimpija and Krka will do battle in the fifth and deciding game for the 2018 championship. After easily winning the first game, Olimpija lost two in a row (78-80 and 67-83) before regrouping to even the series at 2-2 courtesy of an 89-79 victory. Interestingly, in both games that Olimpija lost, Mitchell McCarron didn’t play. In the game four win, McCarron added 9 points (2/2 3PT) with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 16 efficiency points to help power his side to victory and a last opportunity to win the 2018 crown.
In Serbia, the playoff journey for just one of the two Aussies in action continued following the completion of the quarterfinal series. FMP easily beat Zlatibor in both their games (102-53 and 94-87), with Isaac Humphries playing just once. The former Kentucky Wildcat and Sydney King scored 1 point and grabbed 6 rebounds with a chance to play 14 minutes in game one. FMP will now face Borac for a chance to progress to the championship series.
Unlike Humphries, Mirko Djeric and Vrsac had virtually no chance against Crvena Zvezda, suffering straight defeats (50-89 and 82-109). Vrsac were relegated to a playoff for 5th against Mega Bemax. In those two losses against the EuroLeague side, the Aussie guard didn’t look like himself. He averaged just 22 minutes per game in being limited to 3 points, 2.5 assists and 2 efficiency points.